Iowa State's Big 12 season, and its nascent championship hopes, really got off to a start when it beat Baylor by 15 points back at the beginning of January. The Cyclones already knocked off Michigan and Iowa in the non-conference portion of their schedule, but their dominant performance against the Bears proved they would be one of the best teams in one of the country's best conferences.
Given that origin story, it is fitting that the Cyclones will raise one of the Big 12's championship banners because of a win over Baylor.
DeAndre Kane had 17 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, while Georges Niang had 13 points and nine boards, and Melvin Ejim had 10 and nine of his own, leading Iowa State to a 74-65 win in the Big 12 tournament championship game. It's the first Big 12 tourney title for the program since Marcus Fizer and Jamaal Tinsley led it to one in 2000.
It was Baylor that got off to a hot start, scoring the first eight points and eventually growing the lead to 10 within the first eight minutes. Iowa State didn't take its first lead until there was just 5:49 left in the game when Ejim made one of his two threes to put the Cyclones up 53-50. Baylor jumped back ahead on a triple by Brady Heslip, but the Cyclones followed up with a 10-2 run, taking a six-point lead with just more than a minute remaining to take control.
For two teams firmly in the field heading in, Saturday's contest was about pride, winning a Big 12 tournament championship and giving the selection committee one more reason to bestow upon them a better seed. Baylor was in an uneasy position after the regular season, but it solidified its case for the big dance with wins over Oklahoma and Texas. It was just two weeks ago that the Bears were living on the tournament bubble. They'll wake up on Selection Sunday as a No. 7 seed in the SI.com bracket. As for Iowa State, it shouldn't be any worse than a No. 3 seed when the bracket is revealed on Sunday night. It might be hard for the Cyclones to move any higher, though. The No. 2 seeds in our bracket are Kansas, Wisconsin, Louisville and Virginia, and all four of those teams have earned their spots just behind the top four teams in the field of 68. More likely, Iowa State already did all the climbing it can do after starting the week as a No. 4 seed.